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Preservation Award Winner: ArtSpace Buffalo

Preservation Buffalo Niagara is recognizing outstanding preservation projects and those contributing to preservation efforts at its annual awards ceremony May 30, 11:30 AM in the Statler’s Golden Ballroom.  Award categories were established to acknowledge distinguished contributions to our community through preservation activity. Recipients will be recognized in several areas including: preservation craft; rehabilitation/adaptive use; stewardship; neighborhood conservation; planning/reconstruction; and preservation journalism.  Buffalo Rising will profile this year’s winners leading up to the May event.
ArtSpace Buffalo is being recognized in the Rehabilitation/Adaptive Reuse category.  


Artspace Projects developed this mixed-use low income housing project for local artists and their families. The developer has constructed many of these around the country, but this was the first Artspace project in New York State.
The project involves the adaptive reuse of the Buffalo Electric Vehicle Co. building at 1219-1233 Main Street, an historic daylit factory building, into 36 hard loft units, gallery, storefont and common use space, and the construction of 24 new townhousestyle hard loft buildings on the rear of the property (19, 29 & 33 Northamption Street).
Renovations to the historic building included updates to all mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection systems as well as, hazardous materials abatement. Specific work included masonry restoration, restoration of steel windows, replacement in-kind of historic wood windows and replacement of roofing with an adhered EPDM roof. The project, which utilized historic tax credits to augment funding, was compliant with both State Historic Preservation and New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal standards.
The design of the new buildings and site employ the artistic principles of this new residential community, while integrating into the existing context of the surrounding mid-town Buffalo neighborhood. 
The project was started in 2004 and completed in 2007.  HHL Architects was the designer and Savarino Construction Services was the general contractor.

Written by RaChaCha


RaChaCha is a Garbage Plate™ kid making his way in a Chicken Wing world. Since 2008, he's put over a hundred articles on here, and he asked us to be sure to thank you for reading. So, thank you for reading. You may also have seen his freelance byline in Artvoice, where he writes under the name his daddy gave him [Ed: Send me a check, and I might reveal what that is]. When he's not writing, RaChaCha is an urban planner, a rehabber of houses, and a community builder. He co-founded the Buffalo Mass Mob, and would love to see you at the next one. He represents Buffalo Young Preservationists on the Trico roundtable. If you try to demolish a historic building, he might have something to say about that. He is a proud AmeriCorps alum.

Things you may not know about RaChaCha (unless you read this before): "Ra Cha Cha" is a nickname of his hometown. (Didn't you know that? Do you live under a rock?) He's a political junkie (he once worked for the president of the Monroe County Legislature), but we don't really let him write about politics on here. He helped create a major greenway in the Genesee Valley, and worked on early planning for the Canalway Trail. He hopes you enjoy biking and hiking on those because that's what he put in all that work for. He was a ringleader of the legendary "Chill the Fill" campaign to save Rochester's old downtown subway tunnel. In fact, he comes from a long line of troublemakers. An ancestor fought at Bunker Hill, and a relative led the Bear Flag Revolt in California. We advise you to remember this before messing with him in the comments. He worked on planning the Rochester ARTWalk, and thinks Buffalo should have one of those, too (write your congressman).

You can also find RaChaCha (all too often, we frequently nag him) on the Twitters at @HeyRaChaCha. Which is what some people here yell when they see him on the street. You know who you are.

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  • thestip

    I’m surprised it took this long for Artspace to win this award. Should have happened at least 4 years ago…

  • r-k-tekt

    Imagine, a concrete frame daylight factory being restored and reused. Why didn’t they just tear it down, like BNMC wants to do with Trico?

  • paulsobo

    Exactly…this building adds so much more than a new building would have added or an empty lot.

  • Buffalo All Star

    Why after so many years is the first floor still empty? With Buffalo having the arts community it does and all?

  • jim1234664

    come on… everyone knows these old factory buildings are contaminated and no one would want to live in them anyways…
    besides…. high ceilings, open floor plans, an abundance of windows and loft style living??? good luck finding tenants who want to live or work in those deplorable conditions!


    I think it’s because of the “lovely” view of Delta Sonic’s parking lot.

  • whatever

    It should be the other way around!
    Delta Sonic, what seems to be the by far most successful business in the Midtown District, would be justified in criticizing ArtSpace.
    Why should people get even the slightest preference in federally subsidized housing just because they’re artists? Being an artist or culture worker can be a perfectly legitimate thing to do, but why should people in those jobs be automatically more entitled than Delta Sonic’s managers, gasoline truck drivers, car wash workers, cafe food prep people, or even their average customers?
    AllStar’s question is interesting too. Didn’t Senator Hillary say there’d be a lot of demand to be in that building?

  • BuffaloQPublic

    Stacks of congrats ArtSpace!!!
    Veering off-topic but still on Main Street and along the lines of Buffalo All Star’s post . . .
    The first floor of 665 Main St. (across from Alleyway??? Theater) has been vacant since it was built, several years ago. (The info in the window indicates there is 24/7 security and covered parking.)
    However, the former OPM club site (also in the 600 block) that was recently rehabbed by Chris Jacobs already has a tenant(s) along with the other newer redos which are in close proximity.
    Just wondering what’s roadblocking 665’s occupancy.

  • Lego1981

    Pretty soon, this may be the only true ‘urban’ building left in this section of Main. Too many buildings keep getting knocked down for surface parking and suburban style crap. But, hey, I’m just the ‘outsider’ for wanting to live in an actual ‘city’, right?

  • PaulBuffalo

    You’re jealous. You’ve lauded Delta Sonic in your comments for quite a while and I think you just want to live in the ArtSpace building to have that Delta Sonic parking lot view all for yourself. Personally, I get turned on by good art. You get turned on by a smooth parking lot of a successful business. (Hey, I’m not judging.)

  • PaulBuffalo

    No, Lego, you’re an outsider for your rebelliously bad spelling. 🙂

  • whatever

    Huh? So because Paul likes art, that means artists should be legally treated in any way preferably to become tenants in publicly aided housing than – for a convenient example – Delta Sonic employees?
    Sounds like a weird way to decide on housing preferences… but okay, let’s never mind Delta Sonic and adjust the question to ask why artists should ever be treated better for subsidized housing than light rail operators or Amtrak employees?
    (maybe public transit & intercity rail are more of a turn on than gas stations & convenience stores? lol)
    A better question is why should any kind of tenant job title in any way be allowed to affect preference for a publicly subsidized project?
    I know it probably can’t happen because one progressive group won’t want to take on another, but wouldn’t it be funny if HOME ever sued ArtSpace about that?
    As for Delta Sonic, I don’t laud it out of the blue, but if it’s put down, sure – it deserves a good word. It helps gas price competition a lot. Usually they’re at or near the best gallon price in WNY, even in city which is usually more expensive for gas than burbs. They have a nice market cafe at Main St location too – good sandwiches, pizza, etc.
    As far as I know, it doesn’t ask for public $. If it ever does, I’d oppose giving them any. Buffalo boosters should like that their corp HQ is here and they also have locations elsewhere across NY and PA, even a bunch in Chicago of all places. Hey, maybe profits they suck out of Chicago’s local economy and send back to WNY will help to balance out for you-know-who moving to there!
    (not that there’s anything wrong with expatism, of course, just a little joke…)

  • Liz

    It does seem long, but it looks like waiting for the right tenant has paid off. The Buffalo Arts and Technology Center is completing their search for and Exec Dir & is expected to begin renovations & move-in this year. Modeled after the highly successful Manchester Bidwell Corporation in Pittsburgh, BATC will offer after-school visual arts programs for at-risk urban high school students, as well as health sciences career training for under-employed & unemployed adults. I see this as a tremendous addition to the building, and a great asset to the neighborhood and the community at large.

  • PaulBuffalo

    Whatever, slow down. You turned a one-sentence comment from SHUFALLO into another run of your libertarian principles. I give you you an A+ for your Darwinian consistency. (I’d love to see your answers on a Rorschach test. It might be good content for a play then Whatever the artist could get that ArtSpace apartment.)

  • Tim

    In defense of the ‘why should artists get preference’ argument, well, why should anyone get preference then? I.e, poor people, old people, affordable housing for low wage yuppies, government subsidized loans for sprawl inducing suburban developments, etc. I’m kind of with you, but artists aren’t the only ones…

  • whatever

    Paul, if shuff just praised ArtSpace without bashing someone else near it, there’s a chance I’d let it slide without reply. But to put down local business Delta Sonic who’s so much more useful to more people than the place across the street from it … just deserved reply is all.
    Tim, there can be good humanitarian reasons for helping the truly poor. Different strategies can be debated of how best to do so for housing (Sec 8, etc, etc), but the premise of a safety net is accepted pretty broadly.
    However, it just seems a whole different thing for the govt to choose a kind of profession to receive any preferred access as tenants when public funds are involved. At best it sounds elitist, at worst maybe could be argued that it’s illegally discriminatory.
    Other stuff you listed is open to critique too, case by case. Maybe some of them shouldn’t happen either, depending on details. I don’t buy into the 2-wrongs-make-a-right kind of view (not saying you do either, but I’ve seen it used) because then any one bad policy gets used to justify any number of them. Each should be looked at on its own merits. Fwiw, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of any other housing preference targeted in this way for any profession other than artists, when public $ was used. Seems strange.

  • PaulBuffalo

    Whatever, then you can bash me, too. I know I’d rather look at a building than a parking lot. I think you were reading too much into the original comment.

  • grad94

    i believe there’s a waiting list to get into the building.

  • whatever

    Paul, you’re welcome to include yourself in receiving my bashing of shuff’s bashing & scapegoating of Delta Sonic.
    I shouldn’t even ask why you’d dismiss the business as a “parking lot” instead of gas station, convenience store-cafe, car wash. Maybe its few parking spaces are good villains.
    If you agree with the scapegoating, I’d also add delusional to the bashing because it’s a very lame excuse to try blaming the local popular business as a big reason for ArtSpace’s ground floor having sat vacant with not even one willing tenant for 5 years and counting.
    With a quick drive down Elmwood next time you visit, you’ll see several gas stations (Hodge, Delavan, Forest, etc.) and convenience stores with parking lots (Auburn, Summer) – none of which are causing nearby long term vacancy in any pretty buildings near them. So much for that theory, lol
    If Delta Sonic disappeared, that part of Main St would be even more nonvibrant.

  • PaulBuffalo

    Gadzooks, man, are you wholly incapable of discussing aesthetics? Great, Delta Sonic is a successful business. Good for them. They have a nice car wash. Good for them. I’d still rather look at ArtSpace than Delta Sonic.

  • whatever

    Gadzapalooza, are you wholly incapable of reading? Where did I say you shouldn’t prefer to look at one instead of another? That isn’t what shuff said or what I replied to. He blamed local Delta Sonic which many people like for the long term vacancy in ArtSpace, replying to this question:
    AllStar>”Why after so many years is the first floor still empty?”
    As I said, Buffalo has plenty of counterexamples of gas stations (which you wouldn’t like looking at) and convenience stores w/ parking lots (same) near which pretty buildings don’t have their 1st floors sitting vacant for 5 years straight and counting.
    It’s you who keeps trying to twist it into a debate of which of the two buildings looks nicer superficailly.

  • That roofing job was especially important. In order to
    preserve the historic value in the building the EPDM must be installed a very
    specific way. Things are only complicated by the sheer amount of snow to hit
    the roof during the winter. It looks like the spot is going to be good for
    another 10-20 years!